Express & Star

REVIEW: MADE Festival, Sandwell Valley Country Park

Sometimes you've waited so long to catch an artist, you wonder if it'll live up to all the hype and expectation.

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Sandwell Valley Country Park was transformed into a one-day music festival

Despite being a huge fan for years, The Streets were one group that I'd never been able to see live before.

I'd tried, but cancellations, double bookings, etc, had all conspired to ensure I hadn't seen them – but my word was it worth the wait.

Their performance topped off what was simply a truly incredible one-day music festival, which all took place on our doorstep.

MADE Festival took over Sandwell Valley Country Park and turned it into a hive of music, excitement, energy, dancing, laughter and just out-and-out fun.

After such a long time without any live music, and after all the lockdowns, restrictions and rules, performances just seem to sound even better these days.

It's been a strange time but music is the great leveller and it was no different in Sandwell yesterday as we were all treated to an unbelievable day and night of banging beats, rhymes and rhythms.

There were so many acts I'd never heard of before, perhaps because I'm now in my late 30s – or perhaps because I'm simply just not listening to enough new music.

But the good thing about not recognising a lot of the artists is it's all new, and you get discover them in the most perfect way possible – at a music festival, pretty much in your own backyard.

Both the tent and main stage were absolutely rammed – but in a good way, because the crowd was jumping about, dancing, singing, laughing. It was a glorious, sweaty mess.

There were no problems either, just a lot of people having a really good time, enjoying the music.

The DJs – every single one of them – were superb. Their talent of knowing what song to play and when never fails to amaze me.

Shy FX was one of the DJs I had heard of before. It was my younger brother, who is an actual musician, who got me into him first and he too did not disappoint.

His beats are just so mellow until it kicks in – and when it kicks, school is out.

Arms swinging everywhere, everyone in the crowd went for it. We've needed this for so long and it was so nice to just let loose.

And the bass. Wow. My eardrums haven't been subjected to so much pure bass in such a long time – again, probably showing my age there – but it took me back to my youth, which is never a bad thing.

Then it was time for the headline act, the group I'd been waiting so many years to see – The Streets.

Mike Skinner is just a complete and utter genius, and being a Brummie myself he's another artist to add to our fine list of superb home-grown musicians that this region has produced over the years.

From his early, raw days of Original Pirate Material – which just completely blew my mind – to the A Grand Don't For Free, when he became a bit more mainstream, to his most recent offering, None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive, all of his albums tell a story.

Having seen the sunset as the atmosphere moved up a notch, my friend Richard and I stood near the back so we could take it all in.

And Mr Skinner did not disappoint. I'd go as far as to say that was one of the best live sets I've ever seen.

Perhaps it was the build up, perhaps it was frustration of not being able to see live music for so long.

Nah, it was none of that. He is just a brilliant performer and us fellow Brummies are so proud to say he's one of our own.

Turn the Page, Let's Push Things Forward, I Wish You Loved You as Much as You Love Him, Dry Your Eyes, Blinded by the Lights – every single one of them got the crowd rocking from the first beat to the last.

There were too many top-class tracks to mention them all but I have to say, when he blasted out Take Me as I Am – the best modern-day banger I've heard in a long time – the whole festival just took off.

And hats off to the organisers too. To put on such a superb festival with all the cancellations, and Covid restrictions, rules and regulations, takes a lot of effort.

The whole day and night just seemed to run so smoothly and that's testament to all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

It was a truly special event and long may MADE Festival continue – and, more importantly, let's raise a glass to the long-awaited return of live music.

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